The last day of April is in Sweden celebrated as Valborg. Where this custom comes from and how the Valborg celebration looks like? Stay with me and find out!
About Walpurgis Night
Initially, this day was St. Walpurga’s Eve and commemorated the canonization of St. Walpurga and the move of her relics to the German town of Eichstätt. She was known for fighting rabies, pest and… witchcraft.
In Europe, this day is now associated with a witches’ coven that takes place at Mount Brocken (Germany). They gather every year at night between 30th April and 1st May. It’s probably because of something called “A Brocken spectre” – an occurrence that gives an optical illusion that the shadow of a person is magnified due to perspective and light refraction. It sometimes occurs with a rainbowy glow called “glory”. As you can imagine, it was once considered magic, not science.
In Sweden, as in almost all other countries that celebrate Walpurgis Night, celebrations were intertwined with pagan traditions. Valborg is mostly a day of saying goodbye to winter and welcoming spring (by the way it is also King’s birthday). Tradition comes from the Middle Ages. It came to Sweden from Germany. It is celebrated in many Swedish cities, towns and villages, mostly as a quality time with family and friends and another good occasion to have a barbeque and spend some time outdoors (which is very Swedish, by the way).
One of the most iconic traditions of Valborg Day is the lighting of bonfires. People gather together in public squares and parks to watch the bonfires being lit and to sing traditional songs. The bonfires are meant to symbolize the burning of the old season and the arrival of the new one.
In some parts of Sweden, it is also customary to build a majstång or maypole which is decorated with leaves and flowers. The Maypole is a symbol of fertility and is meant to represent the coming of spring.
Singing traditional songs is also an important part of Valborg Day celebrations. People gather together to sing songs that are associated with the holiday, such as “Vintern rasat ut” (Winter has gone away) and “Vårvindar friska” (Fresh Spring Winds).
In addition to the bonfires and singing, there are many other festivities that take place on Valborg Day. People may attend concerts or fairs, and some may even choose to take a dip in a nearby lake or river to celebrate the arrival of spring.
University Valborg tratidions
Valborg is also an important day for all students in Sweden. The biggest celebrations you can witness are in the two biggest university cities – Lund and Uppsala, but they celebrate Valborg also in other cities like Göteborg, Umeå, Stockholm or Linköping. The course of the day often depends on the city.
Sista April in different cities may look different but it’s usually celebrated for the whole day, starting with the outdoor breakfast (that often. ends up being a regular picnic) and huge gathering in the main park (in Lund, for example, it all happens in Stadsparken). During the day, Student Councils prepare many attractions – live music, speeches, performances, parties, games and competitions. It’s not rare that students’ celebration is broadcasted live on TV or radio.
If you live in Stockholm, Lund or Uppsala, Expressen.se wrote an article about celebrations in those cities. Check it out here. But don’t give up – Valborg is often celebrated even in the smallest towns so I’m sure you’ll find a bonfire nearby.
Last year’s celebrations were our first time and having a chance to attend the traditional bonfire was a unique experience. If you have a chance, just Google Valborg [your city] 2023 and find celebrations near you. Let us know how it was!